Dead Or Alive 5
While this latest instalment of Dead or Alive is set two years after the events of the previous game, it has actually been seven years this series has graced consoles. It is also the first title that has no involvement from series creator, Tomonobu Itagaki and the first multi-platform release since Dead or Alive 2. Lastly, it has always been common to see a new Dead or Alive title at the beginning of a console cycle when people are easily impressed by the visuals and not towards the end, so Dead or Alive 5 has a lot to prove.
Apart from the usual story, versus, arcade, time attack and survivor modes, the game now has a story mode as well. Here you play through the events that lead to the fifth DOA tournament as well as the hunt for Kasumi’s clone, Alpha-152. The story is quite bad, but in an entertaining way and as long as you don’t expect any serious narrative you will have fun. Characters run into each other and fight for the most pointless of reasons and the whole thing feels very cobbled together. The cut-scenes make quite impressive use of the detailed character models and you are taught some of the basics along the way so it’s not a total waste of time. You get to control each of the fighters for a couple of fights and overall it feels more like a training mode than anything else. You are given a “bonus objective” for each story mode encounter, such as performing a certain combo or hitting an opponent a certain amount of times with a specific move. Your reward for each successful bonus objective is a new title to show off online and once you amass enough of these you can even unlock a few bonus characters.
For a game that has been absent for seven years, not a lot appears to have changed about Dead or Alive at first glance. Games such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat have done a lot to advance the genre with their recent entries but Dead or Alive has more subtle improvements. The graphics are very good with characters looking more detailed and realistic than ever. This should please players who found the character models from previous entries to be too “doll-like. The <ahem> “physics” also appear to be a bit more realistic, but female characters still have plenty of “bounce” which is always a crowd pleaser. Characters can now also get dirty or sweaty but there is no clothing damage as in Mortal Kombat. Considering how skimpy some of the female outfits are this is probably a good thing.
The levels have been given a bit of an overhaul and are now more detailed than ever. There is also more interaction with some pretty wild danger zones. One level takes place on a raft that can be knocked loose so that it floats down the stream before getting wedged at the top of a waterfall. You can then knock your opponent down the waterfall to continue the fight below. There is even a level set in the middle of a war zone where you can knock your foe into an airborne helicopter for major damage. Some of the more outlandish elements have been toned down so don’t expect to see dinosaurs or African wildlife roaming around in the backgrounds anymore.
The most important part of a fighting game is obviously the fighting engine and DOA5 features some minor improvements over the previous game. The game still uses the “Triangle” fighting system whereby strikes beats throws, throws beats holds and holds beat strikes. It is a bit trickier to simply counter everything with holds this time, which makes the game a bit more balanced. You can now also perform power blows when your health is less than 50% which is useful for turning the tide of battle in your favor. Tag team battles are also back and better than ever. The destructible sections of the arenas are pretty cool as are the “cliffhangers.” There are only two new characters, Taekwondo expert Rig and MMA fighter Milla but they fit in well with the rest of the group. Some of the characters from the Virtua Fighter universe, such as Akira, Sarah Bryant and Pai also make a cameo appearance. Leon and Ein have not made a return for this installment however. Overall, there is a decent selection of fighters, although the roster is slightly less than what most modern fighting games have to offer.
Before jumping into the online mode, it is recommended that you spend some time with the training mode. You can use command training to practice your attacks and hone your skills. I tried out the online modes and the experience ranged from very laggy to quite smooth depending on the connection of my opponents. I would have liked to see a bit more character customization, although all the characters do have multiple outfits that can be unlocked. Interestingly enough, Team Ninja has added an “exhibition” mode that allows you to fight with all characters and costumes which is great for players that don’t have the time or skills needed to do this manually. You can earn achievements or improve your stats during exhibition, but is still great for checking out all the content. There is also a load of costume DLC that you can splash out on if you feel extravagant.
Dead Or Alive 5 is a good game, but not good enough to topple the heavyweights of the genre. Casual fans will love the visuals and character designs while the hardcore players will enjoy the tweaks to the fighting engine. Considering the long wait, it could have turned out better, but I don’t’ think anyone can deny the fact that this game is fun.
*Review originally published 2012.